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Cetera Grabs Ex-Advisor Group COO to Lead Operations

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Cetera Financial Group said Monday that it tapped J. David Ballard, a former AIG Advisor Group (AIG) executive, to become its chief operating officer. Starting next week, Ballard will report to Cetera CEO Larry Roth.

Roth was CEO and president of the Advisor Group before moving to RCS Capital (RCAP), Cetera’s parent company, in September 2013. He led the distribution unit of RCS Capital, Realty Capital Securities, and then became CEO of RCAP’s network of independent broker-dealers last year, after the group acquired Cetera Financial. (RCS subsequently hired Bill Dwyer, a retired LPL Financial (LPLA) executive, to lead Realty Capital Securities.)

“We have been in the process of acquiring a number of large and midsize broker-dealers in recent years and recently closed on some of the acquisitions we announced,” Roth explained in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.

“Now, we are building an organic growth machine, and the firm is designed to help advisors grow their businesses and transition these businesses to the next generation, if they want to,” he said. “Our size and aggressive agenda around growing advisor businesses led us to reach out to David and ask him to help out.”

Ballard says part of his new role will entail “keeping an eye on the industry, the rapid growth of Cetera and the opportunities advisors have” ahead of them. He’s excited to help “frame an organization to take advantage of the best of best” in the IBD field.

In addition, Ballard will push Cetera Financial to take further benefit from economies of scale. “We have to work on great [infrastructure] plumbing and the great opportunities that arise as we share that with advisors,” he explained.

According to Roth, the group plans to boost infrastructure spending at least four times this year to “north of $45 million” in order to support advisors and their practices.

Cetera Financial Group has about 9,500 financial professionals in its network, which includes four Cetera-branded broker-dealers, as well as First Allied Securities, Investors Capital, J.P. Turner and Co., The Legend Group, Summit Brokerage, VSR Financial Services and Girard Securities. Its operations include about 1,700 employees, and the network has roughly $230 billion in assets under management.

The AIG Advisor Group, which Roth led from 2007 to 2013, includes 6,000-plus independent reps with four broker-dealers – FSC Securities, Royal Alliance, SagePoint Financial and Woodbury Financial Services.

A Southern California native, Ballard joined AIG in 1987 and became head of operations and network services for SunAmerica Financial in 1997. He then was tapped to lead AIG’s global data centers in 2002, serve as CTO for AIG Retirement Services in 2005, be chief information officer for the Advisor Group and SunAmerica Mutual Funds (2008) and act as COO of the Advisor Group (in 2012).

— Check out BD Execs: Clients Too Conservative, Putting Themselves at Risk on ThinkAdvisor.